Bad For You

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10

"And lift!" Madame Dubois sweeps her arms dramatically. My partner Simon lifts me in arabesque and spins me around the room.

"Good, good," Madame Dubois nods. "Now fish."

I fold my bottom leg up and Simon swings me back. I reach my arms out and up.

"Hold it...hold it..." my muscles burn as we hold the pose. I focus on breathing, keeping my back lifted while Simon supports my weight.

Madame Dubois finally gives us her approval. "Excellent," she turns to the rest of the class. "Notice how Simon kept his legs turned out and supported the majority of Aurora's weight in his quad while Aurora kept her back straight and her feet pointed, with her arms were gracefully stretched. That is how a fish dive is supposed to look. Graceful and effortless."

Simone lifts me back up and sets me down on my feet. I smile at him and he smiles back.

"You were good," he winks.

"You were better," I tease.

"Now let's move onto turns," Madame Dubois claps. "Get with your partners."

As I move over to my usual spot with Simon I catch Lucy's gaze. She isn't glaring at me or anything, she's just...staring.

Which is ten times creepier.

I quickly look away and get into position. Still, I can't shake off Lucy's stare. It lingers in the back of my mind throughout the remainder of class. And while changing in the locker room afterwards Lucy approches me.

"Aurora," she says in greeting.

"Lucy," I reply, my voice monotone. I don't have the mental capacity to pretend to be nice. Hopefully she just says what she has to say so I can go.

"I heard you're joining another dance studio for extra training during the summer."

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. Is nothing secret around here anymore?

"Wow, news sure does travel fast," I cross my arms.

Lucy shrugs. "People talk. It must suck though."

"What?"

"To try so hard yet know you'll never be good enough," she smiles sympathetically.

My mouth parts.

Lucy's smile goes from sympathetic to perky. "Why don't you just, I don't know, give up? We both know no matter how hard you try, you'll always come up this short," with her thumb and index finger she indicates how much.

I stare at her.

"Good talk," Lucy blinks innocently at me before turning away.

It isn't until she's almost out the door do I finally speak. "You're threatened by me."

Lucy stops. Slowly she turns around, her eyes narrowed. "What did you say?"

"I said you're threatened by me," I repeat, my voice firm. "You've always been threatened by me. You're so insecure about yourself, you have to go out of your way to make sure I feel just as miserable as you," I shake my head and exhale on a laugh. "Because you and I both know I'm the better dancer."

Lucy scoffs loudly. "The better dancer? Oh honey, dont delude yourself. And I'm not threatened by you."

I lift my chin up. "I find that hard to believe."

Lucy walks back over to me, her steps slow and deliberate. Once she's an inch away she stops. We stare at each other, neither of us willing to back down. Finally the corner of her mouth curves up.

"One day you will fall," Lucy whispers. "And I'll have front row seats."

I swallow.

Then Lucy spins on her heel and storms out, the door banging shut behind her.

___

I slam my locker shut, Lucy's words replaying over and over in my head.

One day you will fall. And I'll have front row seats.

She's wrong. They're all wrong.

Suddenly someone covers my eyes. My first instinct is to scream until it's accompanied by a familiar voice.

"Guess who?"

I bite my lip to suppress my smile. "Da Vinci."

My eyes are uncovered and I turn around to see Theo. He grins. "You flatter me. I wish I was even half as talented as him."

"You are," I say simply.

"No, I'm really not."

"Then you will be."

Theo rubs the back of his neck and gives me a lopsided smile. It makes him look young and boyish. And cute. So incredibly cute. "Maybe. So...I had fun this weekend. Did you have fun this weekend?"

I laugh. "Yeah, your friends are cool."

"That reminds me," Theo's face becomes serious. "I'm sorry about Phoebe. She was being so weird. I swear, she's not usually like that."

I didn't understand it until Hannah and I talked the next day, but Hannah deduced Phoebe had a crush on Theo and she was jealous he invited me to their pool night. I didn't want to assume anything, but it was entirely possible. And it would explain why she was being standoffish.

While I wasn't happy with Phoebe's behavior, I couldn't help but feel bad for her. I'd never liked someone enough to care whether they liked me back or not—not until now at least—but I got a taste of what she must have felt when I thought Theo was going to kiss me but didn't.

And it sucked.

So I sympathized with her. It didn't excuse what she did, but it was an explanation.

"Don't worry about it," I wave off his concern. "I mean, she wasn't wrong," I look down at my feet, swinging them back and forth. "I am skinny."

"Hey," Theo tips my chin up so I'm looking at him. "You're beautiful. And your body is beautiful too. Don't let anyone else tell you or make you feel different."

I blink up at him, and suddenly my eyes are burning.

"I wish you wouldn't say things like that," I whisper.

Theo frowns. "Why?"

"Because it's- it's confusing. You're confusing," I step back. As much as I tried to forget about Theo not kissing me, I just couldn't. Several times the moment had unwelcomely popped back into my head. I spent more time than I should have over-analyzing it. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. It wasn't even about the kiss, it was about how he pulled away from me so suddenly and shut me out without an explanation. I wanted so badly to play it off and act like it didn't hurt. But it did.

It hurt a lot.

Theo opens his mouth to say something when the bell rings. "I have to go," I turn around and hurry off to class, leaving him standing there. More than likely confused about my sudden change in behavior.

One day you will fall. And I'll have front row seats.

Between thoughts of Lucy and Theo breaking my concentration during class and making it impossible to focus, the rest of the day is kind of crap. After school is practice as usual, and it all feels like a blur, like I'm going through the motions.

I'm sitting on the floor in the studio long after everyone is gone, scrolling through old photos on my phone. I come across a picture of when I was three at my very first ballet recital. I'm standing in a sparkly pink leotard with a frilly pink tutu, my hands on my hips wearing a toothy grin. The memory makes me smile.

I curtsied along with the rest of the girls after we finished performing and the audience burst into applause. My cheeks hurt from smiling so much.

"Mommy, mommy, did you see!" I rush offstage among a group of hyperactive girls. My mother was waiting for me by the curtain, hidden from grow of the main stage.

"I saw," my mother scoops me up and starts peppering my face with kisses, causing me to giggle uncontrollably. "You were perfect my petite ballerine."

"Really?" I ask with wide eyes as she sets me down.

"Yes," she smiles. "One day you're going to be a great ballerina. You'll dance all over the world in some of the greatest theaters and auditoriums. You'll be beautiful and perfect."

I stare up at her in awe.

I want that.

I want that a lot.


I let out a sigh, pulling one knee up to my chest and resting my chin on it. Back then, my mother was so supportive. Then as I got older, she started changing. She was more demanding. Compliments were few and far in between until they were practically non-existent.

Standing I brush myself off before connecting my phone to the speakers. Then I select a song and stand at center in first position.

I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.

Once Upon a Dream plays over the speakers and I begin to dance along, my movements light and quick. My mother has this dream that one day I'll perform in the Sleeping Beauty as the lead. After all, my name is Aurora. It would be perfect. I'll never admit it, but slowly it became one of my dreams too.

I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam. Yet I know it's true, that visions are seldom all they seem. But if I know youuu, I know what you dooooo! You love me at once, the way you did once upon a dream!

I wrap my arms around myself and sway to the music as if I'm in the arms of my lover. Then I perform a series of small jumps and leaps around the room, humming along to the music. "But if I know youuuu, I know what you dooooo! You love me at once-"

"-the way you did once upon a dream."

I just about jump out of my skin and whirl toward the new voice. There's a lull in the music but my heart rate picks up when I see Theo leaning against the doorway to the entrance of the studio, boyish smile in place.

"Theo?" I ask in surprise. "What are you doing here?"

He walks further into the room, but instead of answering he starts singing. "I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream," he starts walking around me and I turn with him, my gaze never leaving his. Surprisingly he has a decent voice. "I know you, the gleam in your eyes is so familiar a gleam..."

He holds out his hand and slowly I take it. They're warm, and tingles shoot up my spine.

Theo draws me close and I place one hand on his shoulder, the other on his arm. Then he starts spinning us around the room in time with the music and I'm a little nervous because with all my experience, I've never danced like this before in my life. But Theo seems to know what he's doing, so I follow his lead. I stare up at him as we dance, and it feels like I'm really princess Aurora dancing with her prince. Theo lifts my arm to twirl me around, pulling me back toward him. I'm in a wonderful dream, and I never want to wake up.

The moment is perfect.

All too soon the song comes to and end and our steps slow until we stop completely and the music fades out."Where did you learn to dance like that?" I ask breathlessly, trying to regain my composition.

Theo smirks. "Would you believe me if I told you I once took a ballroom dance class?"

My brows shoot up. "Really?"

"Yep," I'm disappointed when Theo drops my arm and moves back, creating space between us. Already, I miss the warmth of his body. "My grandmother told me, and I quote, 'everyone must learn how to at least waltz.'"

I laugh quietly. "Your grandmother sounds like a wise woman."

A look of fondness crosses his face. It's obvious how much he cares about her. "She is. I didn't want to at first but..." his voice voice trails off and his smile fades. "I had just come out of rehab and I guess she was trying to keep me busy...keep my mind off other things."

Suddenly it's like he's far away, relieving painful memories. I step up to him and gently place my hand on his arm. His gaze snaps back to mine.

"You should teach me one day," I say softly.

"Yeah...I will," he brushes a loose strand of hair away from my face. "I'm sorry."

His apology catches me off guard. "For what?"

"Earlier...I made you upset," Theo frowns. "I never want to upset you."

"You didn't..." I struggle to find the words. Yes I was upset over him, but it wasn't him. Not exactly. It was more like I was in my feelings.

"So we're good?" Theo asks.

I nod and smile up at him. "Yeah, we're good."

He smiles back, then offers to drive me home. The car ride is silent as I'm lost in my thoughts. I stare out the window, watching the world whizz by in a blur of color. We're good. I should be happy about that.

So why do I feel more confused than ever?


___





mixed signals are the worst :/

xoxo, g💓
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